By Alexis Romero, April 24 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is not keen on appointing a permanent Budget secretary and may just let the department’s officer-in-charge to lead the agency until he steps down from office.

During a meeting on the effects of the Luzon earthquake held in Pampanga Tuesday, Duterte said all efforts to rehabilitate affected areas “boils down to money.”

“At the end of the day, it boils down to money. Any problem of the government, it boils down to the lady there at the end of the table,” he added, referring to Budget department officer-in-charge (OIC) Janet Abuel.

Duterte then announced that Abuel would be OIC of the department in the next three years.

“She…spent her lifetime counting the money and dividing it among us. So I am not appointing a new – a regular appointment. Ma’am will just act as OIC until I – in God’s time, I end my term in three years. It’s just three years ma’am,” the president said.

“And no need for Commission on Appointments. At saka kung ano ka ng mga congressman, suntukin mo. May congressman ba dito (If the congressmen oppose you, punch them. Are there congressmen here)?” he added.

Speaker and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was seated beside Duterte, then told the president that she is a member of Congress.

Abuel assumed as Budget department OIC after former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno was named governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas last March. Diokno replaced late BSP governor Nestor Espenilla Jr., who died of tongue cancer last February 24.

Abuel is a career official and a certified public accountant who earned her master’s degree in public policy from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. She topped the bar exams in 1998.